If you’re looking for something to read aloud to your kids, I highly recommend Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. It’s a wonderful book that will appeal to both kids and adults.
Set in Victorian London, Sweep is the story of an 11-year-old orphan named Nan. Nan was raised by a kindly sweep, who fed her story soup when there was no food and taught her to see the wonder in the world. But when she was six years old, he disappeared, leaving only his hat and a warm lump of char. Since then, she’s worked for a cruel sweep as a climber, a dirty and dangerous job. One day, she’s caught in a chimney fire, and she thinks that’s the end for her. Instead, it’s the beginning of a new adventure with her unlikely savior, a soot golem she names Charlie.
This book is a heartbreaking story about poverty, child labor, anti-Semitism, and sacrifice. It’s also a heartwarming story about friendship, love, and a life of purpose. And it’s a delightful story about Nan and Charlie’s time together in the House of One Hundred Chimneys. Larrabee and I both loved it.
If you like time travel stories, Arthurian legends, or video games, then you should check out The Once and Future Geek, the first book in Mari Mancusi’s new series called The Camelot Code. It’s action-packed and funny.
Not only do Sophie and Stu, two modern day middle schoolers, travel back in time to Camelot, but a young Arthur and Guinevere also travel to the 21st century. This mixing of characters and time periods leads to some humorous moments. While Stu uses his video game skills to defeat challengers to the throne and defend Britain against the Saxons, Guinevere tries her first cherry Slurpee from 7-Eleven (and gets her first brain freeze!).
When Arthur learns from “the Google” how his story ends, he balks at returning to his own time. His actions in the present are starting to affect the fabric of time, though, threatening everything from Stu’s life to pepperoni pizza. To make matters worse, the evil Morgana wants to kill Arthur. It’s up to Sophie and Stu to save the day (with a little help from Merlin).
Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is November 20.
Inkling by Kenneth Opel is a fantastic story about an ink blot who comes to life and helps the Rylance family get unstuck.
Sixth grader Ethan Rylance is frustrated. Just because his dad is a famous artist, all of his friends assume he can draw too, so they’ve put him in charge of the art for their group graphic novel project. It’s not going well. And his dad is no help. Ever since his mom’s death, his dad has suffered from writer’s block. He often leaves it up to Ethan to take care of his younger sister Sarah, who has Down syndrome.
Then, one night, an ink blot pulls himself off of Mr. Rylance’s sketch pad and starts exploring…
You might think that an ink blot wouldn’t make a very interesting character, but you’d be very wrong. Inkling is a fascinating creature and an empathetic and loyal friend. He can make himself small enough to fit on the top of a shoe or large enough to splash a giant King Kong across a wall. He can be a drawing tutor for Ethan or a puppy for Sarah, and he might even be able to help their dad. My favorite thing about Inkling is that he eats stories and pictures. Superhero comics make him hyper, and The BFG makes him spell out things like “I is having a frothsome adventure!”
This book is both entertaining and heart-warming. I recommend it highly.
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. It will be available in bookstores on November 6.
The Wishmakers by Tyler Whitesides is a very funny book about wishes and their consequences.
One day, twelve-year-old Ace opens a peanut butter jar without reading the fine print and releases a genie named Ridge. The good news: He’s now a Wishmaker and may make as many wishes as he likes. The bad news: For every wish, the Universe imposes a consequence and he has just thirty seconds to decide whether to accept. The worse news: The Universe has given him a quest, and unless he completes it in seven days, all the world’s cats and dogs will turn into zombies.
Things get even more complicated when he meets Tina and Jathon, other young Wishmakers with quests of their own that seem to conflict with his. And things get more complicated still as they make more and more wishes with consequences on top of consequences (which may last for an hour, a day, a week, or forever). For example, at one point, whenever anyone says Tina’s name, she claps, and whenever anyone claps, Ace’s shoelace comes untied. Ace also accepts a day without his left arm, a week without being able to read, and a lifetime with a green tongue. It all adds up to a fast-paced and zany adventure.
Larrabee and I both enjoyed this book and are looking forward to the sequel, The Wishbreaker. It’s coming soon!
Nightbooks by J. A. White is a modern day Hansel and Gretel meets The Arabian Nights with a twist.
Alex feels like a weirdo because he writes scary stories in journals he calls his nightbooks. One night, he sneaks out in the middle of the night, determined to get rid of them once and for all. But the sound of his favorite horror movie lures him into a strange apartment, and he finds himself trapped by a real-life witch. This witch likes scary stories, and she’ll keep him alive as long as he comes up with a new one each night.
Some of the things I liked best about this book are:
- The stories Alex tells the witch. Deliciously creepy.
- The insights into Alex’s writing process, including his spark of inspiration, his understanding of interior logic, and his tips for overcoming writer’s block.
- The witch’s magical apartment with doors that lead back into the same room, a black light nursery for exotic plants, and an enormous library with a spiral staircase!
- Lenore, the witch’s cat, who can make herself invisible.
- The growing friendship between Alex and the witch’s other prisoner, Yasmin.
Blaine would have loved this book when he was younger. Larrabee found it a bit too creepy. I would recommend it to kids who crave scary books, such as Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm, R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, or Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
How Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe (And Put It Back Together Again) by David Teague is a light-hearted fantasy about a boy who isn’t very good at baseball and a watch that can stop time.
Oscar Indigo has more team spirit than anyone else on the East Mt. Etna Wildcats, but he’s never gotten a hit. Then, in the final inning of the championship game, the team’s best player is injured and Oscar is the only player left on the bench. The coach puts him in to hit with two outs, a runner on first base, and his team trailing by one run.
The situation seems hopeless, but Oscar has a special watch in his pocket. When he’s down to his last strike, he uses the watch to freeze the time while he places his ball just over the outfield fence. The Wildcats win and Oscar is a hero.
But it turns out that hitting the game-winning home run is not as satisfying when you know it’s fake. And, to make matters worse, the universe is now out of whack. Oscar will need to figure out a way to give the universe its 19 seconds back and beat the West Mt. Etna Yankees fair and square if he wants to fix what he’s broken.
Larrabee and I both enjoyed this one. It’s a good read for the boys–and girls–of summer.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor has been called “the Nigerian Harry Potter.” That’s how I convinced Larrabee to read it, but the comparison doesn’t really capture what I liked most about this fantasy that draws from Nigerian folklore.
Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue is an American-born albino living with her parents and older brothers in Aba, Nigeria. The other kids at school bully her and call her a “stupid pale-faced akata witch” (which is extremely rude).
Then, she learns that she is a Leopard Person with magical abilities. Among the Leopards, being an albino, which she’s always considered a weakness, is a rare gift. As she’s initiated into this new world, she discovers that she and her three friends must stop the evil Black Hat Otokoto and the masquerade Ekwensu.
I loved the magical world of this book with its chittim (money that falls from the sky when you gain knowledge), juju knives, and spirit faces.
Although Larrabee read and enjoyed this book, I would recommend it mainly for kids 12 and older. It might be too intense for younger ones.
This book is the first in a series. The sequel, Akata Warrior, is already available, and a third book is planned.